As consumers of online learning, whether learning informally through YouTube or formally through a web-based training (WBT) at work, we know which tank and which are great. While we rarely stop and consider WHY a certain e-learning experience was enjoyable and of high value, for those of us who are tasked with designing and delivering superb online learning experiences, we are wise to stop and ask a simple question.

What are the attributes of effective e-learning?

This focus is not on what the tools or “wow” factors are that may be recommended solutions in the actual building of any type of WBT. This is an examination of what makes any type of online learning experience “sing.” This is about the underlying approach and awareness that were strategically used in the first design conversations about creating a seamless, enjoyable, and high-impact online learning experience. This is about why a participant sums up any consumable, online learning experience by saying, “That was great.”

Six categorical attributes of effective e-learning include:

  1. Experience – How do we acknowledge the experience our learners bring with them to this learning endeavor?
  2. Engage – How do we create curiosity for our learners to want to know more, as well as understand what’s in it for them?
  3. Energize – How will we surprise consumers of online learning? How might humor be used?
  4. Every 7 Minutes – How will we touch the heart of our learners and make an emotional connection at least every 7 minutes?
  5. Eats – Culture eats strategy’s lunch … how well do we know our target audience and the parameters of what they will explore or embrace when it comes to innovative e-learning?
  6. Each Objective – How could we, and how well have we addressed and reached the desired results represented with the few learning objectives of this online learning experience?


Consumers of online learning experiences shouldn’t need to see or know why it “worked” and was great. Designing effective e-learning is an art. And it begins with our awareness and understanding of the attributes of effective e-earning. Only then can we begin to think and build innovative, outside-of-the-box online learning solutions.

By Dr. Heidi Scott – Leadership, Learning, and Organizational Development Specialist